Last year, the Oregon Legislature enacted a number of new protections for employees that have recently begun to take effect. One of those protections is the right to receive bereavement leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act if you are an eligible employee working for a covered employer.
This fixes an important gap in the law. Before, employees could take time off to care for an ailing family member, but if the family member died, the right to have time off would dry up. In other words, the law often stopped protecting employees just when circumstances were the worst.
As before, OFLA covers most employers within the state who have 25 or more employees. An employee usually qualifies for family leave by working an average of 25 or more hours per week at a covered employer for at least 180 days. Under prior law (ORS 659A.159), an employee could take family leave—usually up to twelve weeks—for any of the following reasons:
- To recover from or seek treatment for a serious health condition;
- To care for a family member who has a serious health condition;
- To care for an infant or newly adopted child; and
- To care for a sick child.
Under the newly passed law, House Bill 2950, an eligible employee is entitled to take leave within 60 days of a family member’s death to:
- Attend the family member’s funeral or alternative to a funeral;
- Make arrangements due to the family member’s death; and
- Grieve the death of the family member.
As with most employment rights, the law also prohibits retaliation against an employee who inquires about or uses these protected rights. Of course, whether a person is entitled to family leave or has been subjected to unlawful retaliation must be determined on a case-by-case basis by an employment attorney.